Writer and Composer: Daniel Henry Kaes
Director: Mingyu Lin
Reviewer: Simon Topping
We squint through the gloom as the smoke machine is placed on over-drive to create the ambience of smog-ridden streets in Whitechapel.
It is Victorian London (1888) and a murderer is on the loose, but, how do you find a needle in a fog-ridden haystack? The man in charge of the investigation, Inspector Abberline (Saul Boyer), is faced with the seemingly impossible task of satisfying his boss, the media, the public, his wife and his own peace of mind in his efforts to catch a killer.
We start the action in a local brothel, where the “Alfresco sex workers”, as they like to be known, sing about being here to make you smile. It is a funny opening. The Irish madam (Andrea Martin) is particularly well performed.
The murders themselves are brushed over quickly as the action mainly takes place around Abberline and his wife. At times the plot is unnecessarily convoluted and difficult to follow.
Although some lines fall flat, there are occasional moments of well-crafted comedy within the script and song lyrics. A Philip Marlowe style inner monologue scene is laugh-out-loud funny. Abberline’s wife, Emma, is played with good comic timing by Izzy Roy and sings wonderfully and in a fabulously eccentric performance, Mr O’Connor (Ashley Alymann), the tabloid journalist, purrs like Shere Khan in Disney’s classic animation of The Jungle Book, however, the show is at its best when the full ensemble sing and dance together.
We are subjected to a much darker and discordant second half; the slapstick and silliness of what has gone before almost forgotten. There is an odd, but compelling, musical number where Jack (played a little like Papa Lazarou from The League of Gentlemen) murders a victim and a good number performed by the full cast, with many Jacks, as Abberline sinks further into his madness.
As a whole Jack and I is an enjoyable, yet disjointed and imbalanced piece of theatre. However, if the play was revised and script tightened (kept to one act and twenty-five minutes shorter) it has the potential to be a really big hit.
Runs 28 May 2017 at The Warren Theatre 2
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